Friday, March 27, 2015

My Personal Thoughts from the Book of Job

Look, I go forward, but He is not there,
And backward, but I cannot perceive Him;

When He works on the left hand, I cannot behold Him;
When He turns to the right hand, I cannot see Him. 

 But He knows the way that I take;
When He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold. 

 My foot has held fast to His steps;
I have kept His way and not turned aside.

I have not departed from the commandment of His lips;
I have treasured the words of His mouth
More than my necessary food. -Job 23:8-12 (Job speaking)

 I have ended up in the book of Job this morning, for my quiet time.  The book of Job has always been a book I have wrestled to understand, and for years it has made me uncomfortable, to be honest.  I believe that God is good, and that His ways and His plans are good.  But within the book of Job, we see God give Satan permission to take away everything (sparing only his life) from one of his most faithful servants. When I have read the book of Job in the past, I have read it attempting to glean from it what the point of suffering was. But I read it this morning, trying to figure out what God wants me to learn about HIM from this book.  
In my reading through the entire Bible in an orderly fashion, which I am still working through, I have read through Job in the Old Testament and 2 Thessalonians in the New Testament.  What I am discovering anew is that God's ways are NOT man's ways.  God seems to delight in taking the worst possible circumstances and turning them to something He uses to advance His plans and purposes.  That is the "foolishness" of the Cross.  God sent His son into the world.  He fulfilled the prophecies about him, but he didn't send Him to be born into a wealthy, powerful family.  He sent him to a poor, teen girl.  He was born in a barn, or something like it.  The people who attended this occasion were the most common of people-shepherds, and a few wise men who weren't even Jewish.  It was in God's plans that His son, the son of GOD, work as a carpenter, do full time ministry for only three years, and then DIE.  The Jewish people were looking for a Messiah who would come sit on the throne of David here on earth and restore a political kingdom.  But God had greater plans than overthrowing Rome, and he set about to do them through the means of  an instrument of Roman torture---the Cross.  Jesus suffered and died, that God would raise him from death, thus demonstrating God's power OVER death.  And if God can conquer death, how much more can he conquer sin and bring holiness?  
Coming back to Job, I see this same pattern at work.  Again, we have a righteous man, suffering for God.  And from an earthly perspective it doesn't make sense. Job is a righteous man, and God allows the devil to attack him on every front.  Job is in agony, in sack cloth and ashes.  We can see from the passage above the depths of Job's agony; God feels far away from him in his pain.  He feels abandoned by God.  It seems the only thing God leaves for him is a bitter wife, whose foolish advice to her husband is to "curse God and die." Ugh, Lord, help me not to be that woman. Then we have Job's friends who show up to grieve with Him.  At first, they sit with him silently grieving, for days. I have to say that that might have been the best thing they did.  Then Job's companions approach him individually and try to offer what appears to be godly wisdom.  It's the kind of wisdom you get when someone knows ABOUT God, but they don't really KNOW him personally.  They see someone suffering, and they want to make it stop.  They want to solve a "problem" that they see.  It all sounds great on the surface.  These are my paraphrases, but it's stuff like, "Job, you need to repent.  If you would repent, God wouldn't be judging you like this." Or "If you had more faith in God, he would deliver you from this stuff."  Or my favorite: "Who do you think you are to ask God these hard questions? God doesn't answer to you! Quit questioning God!"  The final friend to speak seems to be the best of the lot, esteeming God's holiness and reminding Job why he is unqualified to question God's plans.  There are varying levels of truth to all of these statements, depending on actual circumstances. And the final guy seems to be the most true.  The problem is, Job's friends spout these platitudes off with little to no actual knowledge of what God is doing in this particular situation.  They speak FOR God, without having heard FROM God.  
Job recognizes he is imperfect, and even though he is a righteous man, even that righteousness is as filthy rags.  He longs for a mediator to stand between him and God (Job was on the right track, I think, as this is pointing to God's plan for the messiah).  We see this in Job 9: 32-35:

For He is not a man, as I am,
That I may answer Him,
And that we should go to court together. 

 Nor is there any mediator between us,
Who may lay his hand on us both.

Let Him take His rod away from me,
And do not let dread of Him terrify me.

Then I would speak and not fear Him,
But it is not so with me.

Job longs for God to answer him, which he is told is wrong to long for, by his friends.  And yet, lo and behold, God DOES answer.  And the thing is, when God shows up and speaks, people shut up.  All of their reasonings, justifications, and arguments are exposed for the foolishness that they are.  From all we read in Job of God, we can see God cares greatly for Job.  So for him to answer him is a great honor.  But laying out the facts for Job, hearing them from the Creator of life itself, humbles Job greatly.  How could it not, when God says things like, 

Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding. 

 Who determined its measurements?
Surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?
To what were its foundations fastened?

 Or who laid its cornerstone, 
When the morning stars sang together,
And all the sons of God shouted for joy? (Job 38:4-7)

And Job is quick to repent for the wrong attitudes he himself has, because once He is in God's presence, all the questions become irrelevant.  When we finally taste and see that God is good, when we see Him as he is, then it is easy to trust what He is doing, even when it doesn't make sense.  Eternity becomes the perspective, and not just our natural lives here on earth.  Job finally sees, at the moment he is vindicated in front of his friends, that the only audience that matters for how he lives his life is NOT the naysayers, not the culture, not his closest friends.  But the Audience of One.   Job's response after hearing God speak is much shorter, and we see a humbled Job when he says,

Then Job answered the Lord and said:
“I know that You can do everything,
And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You. You asked, ‘Who is this who hides counsel without knowledge?’
Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand,
Things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. 
 Listen, please, and let me speak;
You said, ‘I will question you, and you shall answer Me.’

 “I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear,
But now my eye sees You. 
 Therefore I abhor myself,
And repent in dust and ashes.”
Job's response to God makes me long to know God more.  The answers God gives Job for his suffering are not an explanation for the suffering.  When Job gazes upon God, he no longer CARES about the suffering.  Because knowing God is enough.  Suffering is temporary; God is eternal.  Job sees finally views himself with the context of a holy, righteous God, and he realigns his thinking of himself to a place of humility.  What I find slightly humorous is how God handles Job's friends:

 And so it was, after the Lord had spoken these words to Job, that the Lord said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “My wrath is aroused against you and your two friends, for you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.  Now therefore, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, go to My servant Job, and offer up for yourselves a burnt offering; and My servant Job shall pray for you. For I will accept him, lest I deal with you according to your folly; because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.” -Job 42:7-8

The only one we hear talk after God speaks is the one who knows him---Job.  Job's friends, who had so much to say BEFORE God showed up---are now silent.  And God humbles them by telling them if they wish to approach HIM, they must ask JOB to pray for them.  

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